Monday, February 2, 2009

Garbeau's needs support urgently

Below is a letter with a familiar theme we just received from Garbeau's. The theater's plight is an echo of the pounding our theaters and our theater community has been taking from the current recession. If you have any ideas or information that could help Garbeau's and other theater groups with similar stories, please click "comments" at the bottom of this post!

To Our Patrons and Friends

It is with a combination of sadness and optimism that we are writing to you. As of today, we are launching a campaign to keep Garbeau’s from closing. We did not anticipate being in this position, but a conversation this past Wednesday with our landlord went far differently than we had ever expected. To explain, I will write chronologically from the start. We bought Garbeau’s in June of 2007.

For nine months, we were enjoying wonderfully sized audiences and healthy revenues. In March of 2008, gas prices broke $3.50 for the first time and—practically overnight—our attendance dropped in half. Apart from getting fewer calls, the huge and sudden energy cost spike that happened last spring resulted in a record number of cancellations from people who had existing reservations. We literally received many calls from guests who said they were looking forward to coming, but the murky outlook (that we months later found out was a full-scale recession) prompted people to cancel their reservations due to uncertainty of what might be in store. Changes were made to meet the lower attendance—our operating costs were smartly diminished to “skeleton crew” proportions without sacrificing our effort to provide quality customer service.

The decreased revenue set us on a path in which we were able to cover most of our costs, with the primary shortfall being rent. We tried to negotiate with our landlord for a temporary rent reduction considering the economy. Our effort was to have a rent based on a percentage of our sale until the economy recovered; upon having stronger numbers, we would happily return to the regular rent cost.We thought the negotiation would end favorably. If so, we would be like other companies who were struggling in this market, but who would manage to survive. This past Wednesday, our landlord flatly refused any negotiation whatsoever. His demands were that we come completely current (we have not been capable of paying full rent) AND supply financial proof that we are well capitalized enough to manage full rent going forward. He stated that if we did not satisfy his demands, he would terminate our lease, an act that would force us to close Garbeau’s forever.

To meet his demands, we are launching an effort to raise one hundred thousand dollars. On one hand, that number is depressing and we face the reality that not raising enough will leave us with no choice but to close. On the other hand, we are optimistic that this goal can indeed be met. For perspective, if the number of people who saw our production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (which ran for only seven weeks—20 performances total) bought a $26 gift card, we would overshoot our goal by over a thousand dollars. It is due to that context that we are hopeful.

What do we need? We are asking for help from everyone who wants to see Garbeau’s stay in business. Here’s how:

1)Purchase a season ticket—without any risk of being left empty handed! We are so grateful to the other theatre companies who are supporting our effort. Because of their backing, your season pass will be worth its price whether we make our goal or not. If we do not meet our goal, our season passes will be honored for either free, 2-for-1, or otherwise notably discounted admission at California Musical Theatre Company, B Street Theatre Company, Stage Nine in Folsom, and five other companies who have pledged to back us but who need final approval from their boards before being named. There is no risk in supporting us this way.

2)Purchase a gift card--$5, $20, $500, anything! Realistically, you know if Garbeau’s is forced to close, your gift card will not have value. If we make our goal, you obviously get to redeem 100% of its value. However, I point out again that $26 per attendee of just one of our past productions exceeds our goal. Can you risk losing $10 or $20 to keep Garbeau’s open? It will add up—but only if you make that purchase.

3)Tell every single person you know. Post it on your blogs, Facebook, MySpace—everywhere. Yes, it’s embarrassing to be facing a forced closure. But in talking to a few friends and mentors in the community, they all said that people won’t know to help us unless they know what’s happening.

4)Email a note to your favorite radio, television, or newspaper editors. Tell them to cover this story. We have already received a mention from KFBK’s Kitty O’Neal and an interview recorded this morning (February 2nd) will be aired on Channel 10 at 5pm this evening. Fox 40 is covering us at 10pm. Good Day Sacramento is covering us next Wednesday. The more press we get, the better our chances are to meet (and even exceed) our goal.

5)Do it now. If hundreds of people are on the fence about making a purchase—waiting to hear how we’re progressing or thinking someone else will step in instead, then we will be closed by the end of March. We are a couple of weeks from some very unexpected hard and fast deadlines from our landlord to stay open. If you have any motivation to support Garbeau’s, it has to happen now.

6)If the phone is busy, keep trying. Leave a voicemail if we’re tied up on the other line. If no one answers, it doesn’t mean we’re not there. If you get a busy signal, it doesn’t mean we’ve reached our goal already. We will also reply to emails.

7)If you like Frank Sinatra, make reservations for this final weekend of “My Way.” If you don’t like Sinatra, consider our comedy night or karaoke night!

8)Because of credit card fees, purchasing with cash or check is helpful. However, we are grateful regardless of how you end up paying.

9) You would help us by your knowing that we love Garbeau’s, we love what we do, and we love you, the people who have been with us—you who have sent emails saying how moved you were by a scene in “The All Night Strut,” or how much you laughed during “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!” or which character your grandchild liked best in “Alice in Wonderland.” I should also mention the sheer number of you who wrote your support to me in my simple effort to lose weight (27 lbs so far…). Your support, and the support we have already felt from the entire community, is overwhelming. We are truly touched and look forward to making it through this very difficult time.

Keep Smiling! Please note that our goal has always been, and still remains, giving our guests an evening of fun. This effort is getting media coverage and we will be letting you know what’s happening through our newsletter. However, if you walk through our doors, you are coming for dinner and entertainment—not an intensive care unit or telethon. If you approach us and specifically want to talk about this, we will. But otherwise, you will see us with genuine smiles as we do what we love to do—taking your cares away for the evening. Sincerely, we are optimistic that this goal can be met. Thank you for any effort you can make on our behalf. And please be aware that any help you provide may put you at risk for a hug the next time we see you!

All our best,
Mark, Andrea, and the Entire Garbeau’s Family

For more information about Garbeau's, click the title to this post.

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